It is 4:45 a.m. and I have been awake for an hour. I tossed and turned for a while, unable to get back to sleep. A few minutes ago the birds began twittering with a vengeance and I finally gave up any attempt at sleep. Though I am normally a sound sleeper, I am sometimes restless under a full moon, and last night’s full moon was magnificent. My little niece, Himrekha, excitedly called me over to the kitchen door at dusk.
“Didi (older sister), the moon is moving SO fast!” she exclaimed. We watched it play tag with gauzy clouds that alternately obscured and revealed the giant yellow orb as it climbed above our neighborhood rooftops. It reminded me how fast the world is moving and, alternately, how slow life moves here in Nepal.
The euphoria of last week, when everyone believed that Nepal would get its long-awaited constitution, was shattered in the waning hours of the deadline, when opposing political parties failed to reach consensus. At the stroke of midnight on May 27th, the Constituent Assembly (CA) that was charged with drafting the new constitution for the Nepal government ceased to exist. Nepal’s Supreme Court, irritated by four years of bickering and deadline extensions, had declared further extensions illegal. Just minutes prior to its dissolution, the Prime Minister declared elections on November 22nd of this year to create a new Constituent Assembly.
Not only does this seem futile, since the same intransigent members would likely be reelected, but lawmakers quickly pointed out that his demand was illegal. The Interim Constitution never anticipated that the CA would be unable to promulgate a new constitution, thus there are no provisions for such an eventuality. Yesterday, Nepal’s Election Commission handed over a list of five provisions in the Interim Constitution and three electoral acts that must be amended at least three months ahead of any new elections, including one that states Nepali citizens who have attained the age of 18 by December 15, 2006, will be entitled to vote in the CA elections. Without an amendment, a large number of voters who reached the age of majority after 2006 will not be able to exercise their franchise.
Meanwhile, infighting between myriad political parties that make up the Nepal government continues with little hope of consensus building. Hardline Maoists, who believe the mainstream Maoist UCPN party sold them out on the issue of States based on ethnicity and identity, are in the process of breaking away to form yet another political party. The CPN-UML Party also has problems, with more than 60 of its members threatening to walk for the same reason. The only thing the politicians seem to agree on is the need for more demonstrations; 19 political parties have announced new nationwide protests for June 8. Wonderful. Just what Nepal needs, more strikes that shut down the country and cause severe economic and social damage.
The full moon that rose over this speck of a country last night was so crystal clear that craters were visible on its face. This morning, the birds are serenading with crystal clear voices. Even the haze that normally obscures the mountains this time of year has dissipated this morning. Perhaps it is a sign that Nepal’s opposing factions will somehow find a path to consensus. As they say, hope springs eternal, and hope seems to be the only thing we have at the moment.
Considering a future visit to Nepal? You’ll want to check out my Essential Travel Guide for Pokhara, Nepal, which is updated regularly.